Eric and I went to see Gloria Estefan perform at the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night.
Let me just tell you how beautifully our Southern California weather performed as well.
It was that magical kind of summer night - Not too hot. Not too cold. A slight Summer breeze. Seriously, So Cal. You sooo won.
Of course, you know how much I love the Hollywood Bowl. In case you don't, read this. And especially this.
The Parking Thing
We live in South Orange County, which, when measured by So Cal distances, means at least an hour drive to get to Hollywood on a perfect day. The concert started at 8:00 pm, which meant we left our house at 5:00 pm. (I know the math doesn't add up, but then, neither does measuring distances by time.)
The most stressful part of the evening for us is the drive - the 1 hour drive took us an hour and a half - and then we had to park. The parking at the Bowl is stacked. That means that you park behind the first guy, and the next person parks behind you. Or next to you. Like an elaborate, real-life, 3D game of Tetris. At the end of the night, you have to wait until everyone in front of you and next to you and all around you gets to their car.
It's amazing how civil we all are when faced with this situation. Kudos to us concert-goers for not killing each other.
It's truly as frustrating as it sounds unless you're prepared for it (which we are), in which case you manage your expectations and just hang in your car until everyone is ready to go.
The Picnic Thing
The most important part of the Hollywood Bowl experience (and my favorite) is the Picnicking. Ask anyone. It's not like going to a regular concert venue where you grab a bite before the show. The Picnic is The Reason the Hollywood Bowl is so awesome.
There are lots of areas around the Bowl to lay out your blanket and serve your picnic feast. If you get there early enough, you can even stake out a table. (For the record: We've never gotten there early enough. See The Parking Thing above.) There are also lots of restaurants and food service on the premises. On this particular night, because it was just the two of us and we got there early enough, Eric and I decided to just find our seats and enjoy our dinner there.
Note: If we left SUPER early enough, we could go to Porto's Bakery for Cuban Sandwiches and Pastelitos, but obviously, that would have meant we'd need to leave at noon to make that happen, so that didn't happen.
Also, I suppose I could have made my own Cuban sandwiches and pastelitos, of course. But I've been spending waaayy too much time on Pinterest looking for inspiration, and I was - in a word - inspired.
1) Cobb Salad in a jar
I got a couple of jars in which I put simple Cobb Salad ingredients. Have you heard of this? You start with a Mason jar or any jar with a lid. Then fill the jar in this order:
- Blue Cheese salad dressing
- Chopped tomatoes
- Cooked, chopped bacon
The dressing stays at the bottom, keeping the lettuce dry. The ingredients stay fresh in the sealed jar. When you're ready to eat, you just shake it up and it's all dressed and ready to party. Seriously genius.
2) Sliced baguette & 3) Creamy Brie
Just exactly as it sounds. The baguette slices were just right for spreading the creamy brie and were perfect with a bit of red wine.
4) Chips & 5) Ham/Roast Beef & Cheese Sandwiches
Wrapped in parchment and string (because Pinterest!), they were the perfect main course for our picnic.
6) Cheesecake with Strawberries
For our Picnic's grand finale , I made individual cheesecakes in small Mason jars. Which, I'll confess to you, were super easy but added a big Wow! factor to the dessert.
I used a Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake and just followed the recipe on the box and pressing the graham cracker crust tightly into the base of the jars. The strawberries were sliced and packed into a ziplock so it was easy enough to add to the cheesecake before eating.
My husband was both impressed and delighted, as were the people around us.
People Around Us: "Where did you get that great picnic?"
Me (looking demure and blushing slightly): "I made it." (Win.)
Gloria sang a mix of traditional standards and some of the old-school Miami Sound Machine favorites. She did not disappoint. The crowd was predominantly bilingual and sang along with her when she went into her Spanish mix.
She also sang a lovely medley: Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar (Portugese) - Here We Are - Con los Años Que Me Quedan (which completely slayed me, but that's not important right now) - and she snuck in a little Conga (see if you can catch it).
I always try to take a moment and take in my surroundings when I'm at the Bowl. The open air. The beautiful music under the stars. My very satisfied belly. My sweet husband by my side. I stopped and thought, "It just doesn't get any better than this."
But Gloria knows me. (I mean that metaphorically, of course.) She chose that moment to bring out Andy Garcia to play the bongos. Andy. My Andy. Gracias, Gloria. *sigh*
If you ever get the chance to go to the Hollywood Bowl, try to pick a night when they're having fireworks, because believe me when I tell you, you've never seen a real fireworks show (sorry, Disney) until you've experienced the fireworks at the Bowl.
When Gloria launched into Conga, everything exploded in a riot of lights and sounds and color and the entire crowd jumped to their feet and began to do the Conga.
"Feel the rhythm of the music getting stronger
Don't you fight it 'til you tried it, do the conga beat."
She gave the instructions for the Cuban way to conga from the stage: "To the right...two...three. To the left...two...three."
And we did.
WOW. Just wow.
It was a perfect, magical, iconic Southern California Summer night. I don't know if Andy will be making another appearance at the Bowl. I'd like to believe that was a treat Gloria brought out just for me.
I can dream, can't I?
There's still a lot of summer season left at the Hollywood Bowl. Tickets are very affordable and I've already shown you how to pack your picnic and warned you explained about parking.
Some tickets are even as low as $20! Order today by calling (323) 850-2000 or visit HollywoodBowl.com. You're welcome.
A Big, Fat, Cuban Family Gracias! to Al Punto Advertising for your sponsorship.